Obama's Ambassador Tells Czech LGBT Activists: You Have Ally in USA

Patrick Burke | August 28, 2012 | 9:08am EDT
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A 'photo of the week' from the U.S. State Department's website shows U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen and U.S. Embassy staffers taking part in a 'gay pride' parade in Prague on Aug. 18.

(CNSNews.com) – The “Photo of the Week” currently featured on the State Department's official “Dip Note” blog shows U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen and staff members taking part in a 'gay pride' parade in Prague on August 18.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Eisen told LGBT activists in the Czech Republic that the United States was their ally.

The parade was part of the second annual “Prague Pride” festival, which featured activities such as a “Rainbow Karaoke Party,” “Children’s Day with Picnic,” and “Gay Speed Dating.”

“The theme of this year festival is ‘Bringing our colours together’ with the aim to introduce the general public to the LGBT communities that are usually hidden from the public eye, such as LGBT Roma (gypsies), disabled or transgender persons,” according to the Prague Pride website.

Alongside Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, Eisen delivered remarks at the event's opening reception on August 13: “I am truly honored to be here today, representing the United States and President Obama in the effort to ensure the rights of the global LGBT community,” said Eisen.

“To LGBT men and women here today and elsewhere, let me say: People all around the globe, in cities like Prague and Washington D.C., are working hard right now to bring attention to these issues. You have an ally in me, in President Obama and in the United States of America,” he said. (Eisen is married to a woman.)

The photo on the State Department website shows Eisen -- who's been ambassador to the Czech Republic for a year and a half -- and U.S. embassy staff members carrying a banner reading "US Embassy" in Czech.  Czech police estimated that close to 10,000 people participated in the parade.

According to one Czech media report, a group of young Christians protested the parade with the support of the Catholic Archbishop of Prague, Dominik Duka. “Ultra-conservative” groups also voiced their disapproval of the parade as well as homosexuality in general.

Last year, Czech Republic president Václav Klaus criticized Eisen and 12 other ambassadors who endorsed the Prague Pride festival when it first took place in August 2011.

“I can’t imagine any Czech ambassador daring to interfere by petition with internal political discussion in any democratic country,” Klaus said in response to the ambassadors’ promotion of the pride festival.

Eisen and the 12 other ambassadors released a joint statement in August 2011 to support Prague Pride and the gay community in the Czech Republic.

“On the occasion of the 2011 Prague Pride Festival, we express our solidarity with, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the Czech Republic, supporting their right to use this occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to raise awareness of the specific issues that affect them,” read the statement.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the Czech Republic since July 2006, but same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt children.

The State Department says the United States "is working throughout the world to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of all races, religions, and nationalities as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy."

A December 20122 "fact sheet" on the State Department website lists the many ways the U.S. State Department has promoted the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in its foreign policy.

Among other things, the State Department says it "works with U.S. embassies, civil society, and multilateral mechanisms, agencies, and forums to encourage countries to repeal or reform laws that criminalize LGBT status."

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